Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Isobel McArthur’s audacious and thoroughly (post) modern pop-tastic remix of Jane Austen’s girl-powered rom-com has already cleaned up in terms of audience and critical acclaim. This has been the case both when the Blood of the Young company first brought Paul Brotherston’s breathless production to the Tron in Glasgow in 2018, as well as throughout its current UK tour.
This time out, and with the Lyceum on board as co-producers, the sisterhood has been expanded for McArthur and co.’s turbo-charged pot-pourri of proto-feminist fire and prime-time cork-popping froth. Where before there were five performers play-acting Austen’s dissection of love and life in nineteenth century ballrooms from a servants’ eye view, now there are six. The addition of Felixe Forde to the fold doesn’t in any way demean the quick-fire romp through the romantic merry dance that plays out between ferocious she-punk in waiting Lizzy Bennett and mono-syllabic nice guy toff Darcy. Rather, it actually makes things even better, elevating the action by several notches.
This makes for a profoundly joyous confection that stays faithful to Austen’s original while flirting precociously with a pick and mix of theatrical tricks that add a whole range of flavours to an already sumptuous rites of passage. Ana Ines Jabares-Pita’s grandiloquent design and Simon Hayes’ lighting give space enough for Emily Jane Boyle’s choreography to breathe, while Michael John McCarthy’s musical supervision mines jukebox, karaoke and dancefloor favourites to power things along in the spirit of a Crackerjack pantomime.
Throughout all this, Meghan Tyler as Lizzy and McArthur as Darcy character-hop their way through the dressing up box alongside Forde and an equally playful Tori Burgess, Christina Gordon and Hannah Jarrett-Scott as the other Bennett siblings and a whole lot more besides, heroines every one. As Lizzy, Darcy and co take a lover’s leap towards a liberated future, the end result of this theatrical whirligig is a kick-ass delight from start to finish.
The Herald, January 27th 2020